ING insurance tempts buyers

JAN Hommen, the chief executive of Dutch bancassurer ING, said yesterday that the group&rsquo;s insurance division has received strong interest from potential buyers, after it was last month forced to carve up its empire to pay the price for its taxpayer bailout at the height of the crisis.<br /><br />Hommen said he would have to use his &ldquo;hands and feet&rdquo; to count all of the firms that have contacted him, though he added that the group is not in active talks with any buyers.<br /><br />&ldquo;We have plenty of time, we&rsquo;e not in a hurry, we&rsquo;re not a distressed seller,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We will do it in a quite orderly fashion.&rdquo;<br /><br />The news comes after rivals including UK insurance giant Aviva publicly expressed interest in the business.<br /><br />Hommen has made no secret of the fact that he would prefer to see the insurance unit floated via an initial public offering, which he said yesterday would be the &ldquo;normal path&rdquo;. But he said ING would weigh the possibility against all other exit options.<br /><br />EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes decided last month that ING should be forced to split up its operations by selling off its insurance assets to pay for the state aid it received. ING at the time unveiled a &euro;7.5bn rights issue to help repay the government, which is expected to be priced at up to a 50 per cent discount if it is approved at an extraordinary meeting later this month.<br /><br />ING yesterday also posted a third-quarter profit in line with the results it pre-announced in October. The group made a net profit of &euro;499m (&pound;451m) for the three months to September, compared with a loss of &euro;478m last year, which the group said was primarily down to strong interest income and financial markets results and lower costs.